June 20, 2015 Wellston, Michigan. Michigan’s first 100-mile mountain bike race, the popular Lumberjack 100 always takes place on the third Saturday in June and always fills it’s 450 available spots within hours. Promoter Rick Plite and his cast of helpers put on a great event that utilizes a 33-mile loop through Michigan’s beautiful Manistee National Forest and the Big-M Ski Area. The Michigan style single track is composed mostly of hard pack trail, occasional sandy sections, and fast rolling terrain offering twists and turns that demand constant power, and total concentration as the trails quickly turn to nothing more than green blurs of forest. Ninety percent of the 33-mile, 3-lap race is comprised of this single track that will eventually push racers over 9,000 feet of total elevation gain.
Open Men – Schworm last man standing
Rare Disease Cycling rider and 2014 Lumberjack champion Christian Tanguy hoped to defend his title from last year but ultimately had to settle for second. Challenging Tanguy for the overall would be Brian Schworm (Green’s Toyota), Tinker Juarez (Ridebiker Alliance), Keck Baker (Champsys/cannondale P/b Battley Harley), Michigan native and 2013 Lumberjack 2nd place finisher Michael Simonson, and 2013 2nd place finisher Jorden Wakeley (Quiring Cycles) riding a 29+ fatbike.
The fact that the mile rollout on the pavement was somewhat tame was more than compensated for once riders turned into the Big-M parking lot with Baker leading the way. “I just got nervous” recalled Baker “I went into crit-mode. I wanted to ensure good position in the single track”. Baker lead a strong group that included Schworm, Juarez, Wakeley, Simonson and a huge train of followers up the opening climb and subsequent rollers. The lap-1 pace was high, with the lead 13 riders coming into the start/finish at 2:12. As the lead group was starting to gel, Chicago rider Mike Phillips (Adventure 212 / Specialized) moved to the front and kept up the pressure with a pace that seemed un-sustainably high. Phillips lead through the lap-2 run-up section followed by Juarez, Simonson, Baker, Tanguy, Wakeley and Schworm. Single speeder Gordon Wadsworth was also in the mix, having recovered from an early crash in the lap-1 first climb traffic.
When the rollers near the end of lap-2 began, Tanguy moved to the front. “I took over the lead for the last 8 miles of the second lap and continued the fast pace.” remembered the RDC rider. “More riders fell off of the lead train and we were a much smaller group when we reached the aid zone at the start of lap-3”.
Schworm was content to let others do the pace-making. “About two-thirds of the way through lap-2, Christian started the attacks on the repeating steep hills which reduced the group to 6.” recalled the eventual winner. “At the beginning of lap-3 I hammered the initial section and two more were gapped. One of the victims was Keck Baker. “Six came into the start/finish area together.” said Baker. “but just as I had my cooler open reaching for my bottles, the others were already flying by!”.
The lap-3 lead group was reduced to Tanguy, Wakeley, Juarez, and Schworm with Tanguy setting the pace. “I led our small group again thru the road Monkey section.” said Tanguy. “We were riding at good speed and lost Jorden and Tinker.”.
Two riders left, Schworm and Tanguy. “Shortly after the mid lap aid station, in a short uphill both my legs cramped.” remembered Tanguy of the decisive moment. “We were about one hour from the finish but I had to back off the pace or I wouldn’t see the finish line.” That moment opened the door for Brian Schworm.
With Christian stuggling, Schworm made his move. “I then attacked on the run-up to the fire tower, the following road section, and the first few hills when we hit the trail again.” recalled Schworm. “I saw a had a gap at this point so I quickened the pace a bit and hammered those repeating steep hills and was able to hold the gap from there to the finish.”
Tanguy would do all he could to just finish without losing any spots.
In the end it was Brian Schworm hanging on to win in 6:27:39. 2nd RDC’s Tanguy 6:29:52, 3rd Wakeley 6:31:29, 4th Juarez 6:31:32, and Keck Baker would finish in 5th 06:39:55.
Full results here.
Open Women – Chandler finishes strong
With many of the NUE favorites opting instead for Colorado’s Bailey Hundo, the door was opened for some new talent to emerge victorious in Michigan. Among the favorites taking their shot was Rhonda Stickle (Bike Zone Racing), Mari Chandler (Dart Nuun / Tecnu Racing) and local Michigan rider Jill Martindale (Grand Rapids Bicycle Co.).
Stickle set an impressive lap-1 pace getting back to the start/finish area in 2:36:38. Martindale was 3 minutes back and Chandler sat in third two minutes behind Martindale.
By the end of lap-2, Stickle lead Chandler through the start finish by 13 seconds. Martindale was third, 7 minutes back having fallen off the pace of the leaders.
But Chandler was in control. The Nevada rider rode lap-3 in 2:41:15, just 30 seconds slower than her lap-1 split!
In the end, Chandler wins in 7:59:03, Stickle is 2nd with 8:04:56, and Martindale holds on to 3rd in 8:14:44.
Full results here.
Single Speed – Wadsworth back on top
With wins in the first two 2015 NUE Single Speed contests that included an overall win at Cohutta, Blue Ridge Cycling rider Gordon Wadsworth raced in the open at Mohican on a geared bike. But Wadsworth got behind nutritionally on a hot Ohio day and eventually fell off the pace of the leaders. Looking for redemption, Wadsworth returned to the Single Speed category for the the 2015 Lumberjack 100. “It’s just SUCH a good single speed course” said Wadsworth. “Doesn’t get much better than racing 100 miles on beautiful single track.”
Challenging Wadsworth would be Ontario rider Jan Roubal (Velorution), Bloomington Cycle And Fitness rider Aaron Fader and local rider Mike Bernhard (Twin Six Metal).
Wadsworth’s win would not be without drama. Having fallen off of the pavement pace of the very top geared riders, Wadsworth was passing riders to the left of the line on the first climb when he went down hard. “I didn’t see what happened, but I saw Gordon picking up his bike out of the woods on that opening climb” recalled Masters winner Roger Masse about the early racing.
Wadsworth was back on his bike and burning jet fuel. He was immediately passing his single speed rivals and was soon in contact with the leaders. By the end of lap-1, Wadsworth crossed the line in 2:12:56 with the leaders of the open men.
The man they call “Quadsworth” rode with the elite front group till a particularly steep climb on lap-2 where he got bogged down and had to dismount. A gap formed and he was not able to close it.
Detached from the open leaders, the NUE Single Speed series leader rode tempo for the remainder of the race and took the single speed win handily in 6:48:32, good enough for 8th overall. Jan Roubal was 2nd with 7:07.39, and Aaron Fader 3rd in 7:12:41.
Full results here.
Masters – Masse makes it 2 in a row
Fresh off his Master’s win at Mohican 100, RDC’s Roger Masse hoped to make it two-in-a-row with a repeat of his 2014 Lumberjack Masters win. With 80 Masters starters, this would prove to be a tall order. In attendance was 2015 Cohutta Masters winner Jeff Clayton (Georgia Neurosurgical Institute), Stark Velo rider David Jolin, and a slew of fast local Michigan riders including Jeff Wittbrodt (Specialized), Jack Kline (McLain Race Team), and Racing Greyhounds riders Mark Donakowski and Chris Torrance.
“The pace really started moving fast once we were in the Big-M driveway” recalled Masse about the start. “I slotted in a rider or two behind Clayton. I watched him ride for the first several minutes and eventually decided he looked tired from the early effort. So I punched it at the top of an early climb to pass.”
After that initial surge around Clayton, Masse settled into a fast group that included Jeff Wittbrodt and Open rider Jeff Mandell (Finkraft Cycling Team). “Wittbrodt lead for much of the first lap” remembered Masse. “I could see he was a confident descender but was keeping the climbing pace reasonable. At that point, I had no idea he was racing Masters.”
At the beginning of lap-2, Wittbrodt began to slow, perhaps in an effort to conserve for what lay ahead. Jeff Mandell took over the pace making. “Jeff picked up right where (the other) Jeff left off on lap-2” said Masse. The lap-2 group started with 6 or 7 riders and ended with only Mandell and Masse. Wittbrodt was not in contact. Mandell and Masse began to slow towards the end of lap-2 but were rejuvenated after the final stop for bottles and the start of lap-3. Mandell eventually fell off the pace with 20 miles to go leaving Masse alone.
A resurgent Wittbrodt caught Masse shortly after Mandell dropped off. “I asked Jeff at that point if he was Open or Masters” said Masse. “When he said Masters and I told him I was too and that I thought we were leading, it was on!”. With a surge of adrenaline, Masse stepped up the pace and lead Wittbrodt through the 1/2 way aid station and into the climbs leading up to the hike-a-bike section. “I noticed he was falling off the pace a bit at the top of the longer climbs, so I notched it up even more. I had a gap at the bottom of the run-up and I went totally anaerobic up the run-up, barely recovering on the gravel descent that followed.” The effort was enough. Wittbrodt was out of sight.
With 10 miles to go and the lead, Masse spent the rest of his match-book and held off Wittbrodt for the win in 7:19:23, Wittbrodt would finish 2nd with 7:22:29, and Jeff Clayton 3rd in 7:24:38. Just 5 minutes separated the top-3 Masters racers after nearly 7 1/2 hours of racing.
Full results here.